The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is a remarkable accomplishment, created by Congress in 1964 as a bipartisan commitment to safeguard natural areas, water resources, and our cultural heritage, and to provide recreational opportunities to all Americans.
This fund is the nation’s primary source for preserving nationally significant public lands, and for providing recreational opportunities in local communities throughout our nation. Every single state in America has benefited from the LWCF.
The program includes two components:
- “Federal Side” funding which is used to acquire lands, waters, and interests therein necessary to achieve the natural, cultural, wildlife, and recreation management objectives of federal land management agencies. National parks, as well as national wildlife refuges, national forests, rivers, and lakes, have been set aside for conservation and public enjoyment thanks to funds from the LWCF. These funds also support the strategic acquisition of long-identified inholdings within national parks, allowing for the protection of significant natural, historic, and cultural resources while contributing to more cost-effective park management.
- “State Side funding” provides matching grants to States for planning, land acquisition, and the development of recreational opportunities. Local communities across the United States have benefited from these funds through the creation of children’s playgrounds, swimming pools, trails, and ball fields.
The LWCF does all this without using any state or federal taxpayer dollars. It is supported by three primary revenue streams:
- Surplus property sales of the federal government
- Motorboat fuels taxes
- Revenue from Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) oil and gas drilling
The Fund relies mainly on revenue from the depletion of some natural resources – offshore oil and gas – to support the conservation of other precious resources – our land and water. Every year, $900 million is authorized to go into the fund, with most of that amount coming from OCS revenue. Although Congress only appropriated $431 million of that $900 million for federal land acquisition and the state grant program in FY 2018, every state and territory received a portion of funds from the LWCF. This is a critical investment not only in our quality of life but in the American economy. Outdoor recreation, conservation, and historic preservation activities contribute more than a trillion dollars annually to the U.S. economy, supporting 9.4 million jobs.
But Congress’ continuing authority to place funds into the LWCF will expire September 30, 2018. Without this money, state and national parks will lose millions of dollars in direct support. Residents from all 50 states and our territories will lose additional money and jobs from a reduction in tourism and related industries that depend on a vibrant state and national park system.
The House Natural Resources Committee approved H.R. 502 last week, a critical and bipartisan agreement that would permanently reauthorize the LWCF. Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Arizona), came to a surprise agreement, which was approved by a unanimous vote. This is a huge victory and would provide relief from the previous, eleventh-hour deals to temporarily authorize the LWCF.
The proposed LWCF bill would allocate 40 percent of the money to the fund’s state-side program, 40 percent to the federal land acquisition program, with the remaining 20 percent where it is most needed among the programs. Another provision would set-aside 3 percent for recreation access, requiring the Interior secretary to put together a list of priority projects.
The Coalition strongly supports the actions of the House Natural Resources Committee. We hope that this is the first step in authorizing permanent dedicated funding through the LWCF so that the full $900 million going into the Fund is available each year for the purposes of meeting the land acquisition needs of our federal agencies.
Every year, Congress makes decisions that impact our national parks and public lands… and these decisions impact you. We need your help to reach out to members of Congress and advocate for these precious resources. Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered. We put together an advocacy toolkit to help you reach out to policymakers and join in the fight to protect our parks.